Niantic says its first major update to Pokemon Go since the game’s launch last month will make it more stable. But the changes have since caused a huge backlash among players who feel like they’re hunting blind when they go outside to find new pocket monsters.
Last week, the company shut down third-party trackers like Pokevision that scraped the game to display the locations of pokemon spawns. The apps caused an undue amount of load on Niantic’s servers and “were interfering with our ability to maintain quality of service,” Niantic said in a Facebook post.
They also removed the ‘3-step’ display that indicated how close pokemon were to the player. The in-game tracker was bugged since the game’s launch and uselessly showed all pokemon as three steps away. So game creators took the display away altogether while they work to “improve upon the underlying design”.
Unfortunately, Niantic made a belated announcement of the changes several days after releasing them and in the absence of news, confused players were left asking what happened and whether apps like Pokevision would come back online. Pokevision didn’t offer much insight either in service announcements via Twitter.
Hey guys. We wish we had some news for you
At this moment, we are respecting Niantic and Nintendo’s wishes.
Will keep you guys posted
— Pokevision (@PokeVisionGo) July 31, 2016
For his part, Niantic CEO John Hanke had hinted earlier he might get rid of tracking sites and apps so the move wasn’t a complete surprise to fans.
“Yeah, I don’t really like that. Not a fan.” Hanke told Forbes. “We have priorities right now but they might find in the future that those things may not work. People are only hurting themselves because it takes some fun out of the game. People are hacking around trying to take data out of our system and that’s against our terms of service.”
Still, Niantic drew a lot of ire from players when it both took features away from the game and stayed silent about it. Many left one-star reviews for the game on the app store and a reddit thread was created about how to demand a refund for purchases made in the game.
Niantic has struggled to stay on top of its runaway popularity since launching July 6th. Multiple service disruptions have plagued the game as they try to get ahead of user demand. Hanke blamed third-party apps directly for increasing server load and ultimately delaying the game’s launch in Latin America and Brazil.
“Running a product like Pokemon Go at scale is challenging,” Hanke wrote in a blog post. “Those challenges have been amplified by third parties attempting to access our servers in various ways outside of the game itself.”
Hopefully, that means the game’s up-time will be more reliable going forward. And it’s probably a lesson learned for Niantic about keeping customers better informed as they continue to expand. As one person awaiting Pokemon Go’s launch in Brazil put it, it was “the lack of communication that was keeping me so frustrated.”